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‘The Ice Beneath Her’ by Camilla Grebe
Although this is Camilla Grebe’s debut as a solo writer, she has written four crime novels with her sister Åsa Träff, as well as co-authoring a popular Moscow Noir trilogy.
It is clear from this crime novel that she knows her stuff.
I am grateful to Emily Burns at Bonnier Zaffre for sending me a copy of this novel to review. I do enjoy crime fiction, but don’t read a lot of it. Having read ‘The Ice Beneath Her,’ I fully understand those who return to this genre time and again.
The book is written in the first-person narrative. Each chapter alternates between one of the three main characters. Emma, who works at a clothes store and is currently dating her enigmatic boss Jesper Orre. Peter, a disillusioned detective with a painful past, and Hanne, a psychological profiler, who had a brief relationship with Peter many years ago, and has recently been diagnosed with early onset dementia.
When a young woman is found beheaded in Jesper Orre’s house, Peter and Hanne are thrown together again and must confront their past.
I found this novel simply unputdownable. I had it read in three days and would have finished it sooner if I could have!
The characters each have a fascinating and engrossing back story which illustrates why they are the messed-up people they have become. A great writer makes characters come alive on the page, and within a short space of time, I felt I could have been in that small cold apartment where Emma lived. The characters are vividly portrayed with subtle nuances that make them all the more realistic.
The story never falters and the atmosphere is eerie and sombre, with occasional shades of light.
In revealing more about the lives of each of the characters, Grebe builds a poignancy around them, and gives us a deep insight into why they behave as they do. Emma in particular, has had a more than difficult upbringing. Her mother was an alcoholic. As a child, we are told she kept a caterpillar in a jar (as her father told her something remarkable would happen if she kept watching it.) She cherished it. A devastating scene occurs, when her drunk mother throws it out of the window:
“I’ll teach you what’s important,’ Mum said, then staggered over to the kitchen window, opened it and threw out the jar. After about a second, I heard it shatter on the tarmac below.
“No, I screamed, No, No, No!”
There are many such scenes in all the characters’ lives, where we find out where their own particular darkness comes from.
The only tiny issue I had with the novel, was the timeline. I was slightly confused by how it was set out, but this became clear by the final third of the book. More experienced crime readers will probably get it from the start.
This is an utterly captivating read with memorable characters and gripping action. I highly recommend this book. An enthralling page turner. Rush out and buy it!